CG landscapes, real landscapes and my true confessions….
So, I did this painting a few years ago for a small press edition of A Princess of Mars under it’s original title of Under the Moon of Mars. It’s one of my favourite paintings, and as someone who’s been painting Barsoom all of my life, a kind of milestone. I really felt that I’d nailed a lot things I’d always wanted to with Barsoom in this image. Except for one. This isn’t what I see in my head when I read the books.
This is an image from Lawrence of Arabia, one Andrew Stanton’s favourite movies and a keystone to his take on the John Carter material.
And some stills from John Carter. Like Lawrence of Arabia it is shot in the great outdoors. Look at those colours, the depth and the scale of these vistas ! See some similarity in style there ?
Below are too images are from Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta Canada. The first location was a spot that I thought was perfect for some kind of Barsoomian battle arena when I was a kid. I’d go up into the hills, my copy of A Princess of Mars in my pack and escape. Years later worked for the museum that hauls dinosaur bones out of these badlands, so I’ve been there, many many times in my life.
And finally, Asgard from THOR and below that, some place from the Green Lantern. I thought the environments in THOR really worked. I haven’t seen Green Lantern, but it doesn’t look quite to so good to me…. But, despite the difference in quality, both images are highly designed artificial environments. And I’ll be honest, Asgard isn’t real to me. Not in the least.
And lastly, a production painting from Conran’s John Carter movie. I love this image. I love the colour, the Chesley Bonestell mountains and the dead domed city. But in the context of what I’m talking about here, it doesn’t look like Barsoom to me. It has less to do with Saturn in the sky than it just not being even vaguely like I picture Barsoom when I read. It does look like a comic set on Barsoom to me, but not the book. I’m the first to say to somebody, of course it doesn’t match what you imagined, we’re all different. But Burroughs never say’s there is a pink sky, or a red one or a saffron one. NEVER. Go get a digital copy and search it. He uses the word Azure (a blue-cyan colour ) a lot. I was disappointed in that as a kid, but if the author doesn’t repeatedly remind you of something that’s different, like a sky colour, you’ll default to what you know.
My suspicion is that if Stanton did create a Barsoom as an exotic CG world, I don’t think it would last in my head and I don’t think that the movie would age well. The next time I read a Mars book my world would come back to what Burroughs said and overwrite most of those screen images. Sure some imagery would stay, a thoat or flyer design, but I don’t think mine would have a pink or orangey sky. I’ve tried to make it that way in my head and never accomplished it. And of course your Barsoom will look different than mine, but I doubt it’s as exotic as Asgard or Conran’s version. So that’s my true confession. Yea I painted it ‘that way’ but deep down, my Barsoom looks like Dinosaur Park. – Jeff